Wednesday 20 January 2010

Media Release

18th January 2010

Outing of DES drug information

For decades Government health information about the dangerous anti-miscarriage drug, DES (diethylstilboestrol) has taken a background position, almost hidden. This drug’s harmful effects aren’t outwardly visible and it has often been called ‘the hidden Thalidomide’. A simple street-survey would show most Australians have never heard of it, let alone know how to say it. There are stated problems with this ‘hidden’ factor for a significant number of the drug’s victims.

The organisation, DES Action Australia-NSW has provided an estimate that at least 160,000 Australians have been prescribed DES during pregnancy or exposed to the drug in the womb. The group claims that thousands of Australians are still unknowing victims forty years on since the drug was linked to cancer and remain oblivious to the vital health care they need.

Apart from certain types of cancer, other risks with DES exposure include reproductive abnormalities, miscarriages, ectopic (tubal pregnancies), premature delivery, undescended testes, and infertility. DES was used during pregnancy from 1938-1971 (and sometimes beyond).

The Department of Health and Ageing has refused to inform Australians directly in public health programs about the possibility of having been DES exposed, but assures DES Action it is committed to ensuring appropriate information is provided. Department correspondence to the group states DES exposed women should be encouraged to see their doctor for specific management and surveillance.

“Without direct and ongoing publicity about DES by Government, DES exposed Australians are literally walking time bombs kept in the dark,” says Carol Devine, DES Action group coordinator and herself, a DES daughter. “Australians need to know about DES in the first instance to enable them to seek information about DES and the special preventive health care they need. Not everybody has computer access to find DES information on Department websites and finding out by chance or not at all about a dangerous prescribed drug is not satisfactory.”

A blog site developed by DES Action Australia-NSW ( includes report that an Australian woman recently won a three-year legal battle in the United States, after taking legal recourse against the makers of anti-miscarriage drug DES (diethylstilbestrol). Exposed to DES in-utero in the 1960’s, she developed the aggressive form of cancer clear cell adenocarcinoma at 21 years old, and was left infertile after a radical hysterectomy. Australian law does not allow legal recourse for DES victims.

This month the group received news from US screenwriter, Caitlin McCarthy about the upcoming feature movie, a scientific drama about DES, “Wonder Drug” (

“Going to the movies to see ‘Wonder Drug’ this year may be the way that Australians find out about DES”, says Devine.


Tuesday 12 January 2010


a dramatic turn for DES

US screenwriter, Caitlin McCarthy (pictured) has presented us news of the upcoming scientific drama, WONDER DRUG - a feature movie.

In her work on WONDER DRUG with New York Director, Tom Gilroy and Screenplay Scientific Advisor, P. Harry Jellinck, Caitlin has taken the true story of the drug DES by the teeth, portraying the real consequences of badly tested approved drugs like DES and revealing the corruption of the pharmaceutical industry behind the scenes.

The WONDER DRUG story shows how the DES disaster harms the lives of a Big Pharma executive, feminist doctor, and a thirty something newlywed across different decades. The film has won awards or received nominations in 19 international film festival screenplay competitions and labs. Notably in 2007 at the 15th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival, WONDER DRUG was chosen for a live staged reading of selected scenes and panel discussion. Panel discussion afterward featured Caitlin McCarthy and her scientific mentor P. Harry Jellinck. This event was co-sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Pictured here are Tom Gilroy, Caitlin McCarthy, and Steve Guttenberg at the 15th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival.

In her interview with us, Caitlin says:

"I am beyond excited that WONDER DRUG is currently in development with the acclaimed independent director Tom Gilroy (SPRING FORWARD). We are poised for production this year -- a dream come true for me as a screenwriter and DES Daughter. WONDER DRUG is incredibly timely, given the subject matter.

DES was prescribed to millions of unsuspecting pregnant women for decades: from 1938 until 1971 in the United States; and until the mid-1980s in parts of Latin America, Europe, Australia, and the Third World. But the disaster doesn't end there. Millions of women today are undergoing infertility treatments with hormones and HRT interventions with additional hormones. If they don’t know that they’re a DES Daughter, they're unaware that they were exposed to unnaturally high levels of a synthetic oestrogen before birth. That has to be of concern when using additional hormones.

People also need to know if they were exposed to DES so they can make informed medical choices and get the medical screenings they need to protect their health. Most doctors don’t even know that DES Daughters need a special Pap screening. That is because most doctors aren’t learning about DES in medical school. As a result, millions of men and women are not receiving the proper checkups, tests, and treatments from doctors because they do not know about their exposure.

Also, a rare clear cell cancer linked to exposure is considered a disease of post menopausal women, so it’s pivotal to educate people about DES now, as we may see a second wave of clear cell cancer when those exposed to DES reach this age. Since DES was heavily prescribed in the 1950s, we could see an outbreak of clear cell cancer cases in as few as five years. Additionally, DES provides a classic example of endocrine disruption and its trans-generational effects, giving science an illustration of such effects in other forms of life such as birds and fish, etc.

Lastly, there are possible effects on third generation children that need to be studied. It is outrageous that more attention has not been paid to this subject by the medical community, various governments, and the media. My hope is that WONDER DRUG will shed light on the DES drug disaster and save lives."

We definitely watch Caitlin with interest. If shown in Australia, WONDER DRUG the movie has real potential to kick off a dramatic shift in Australian awareness of DES. It could provide the key to helping the 160,000 or more Australians suffering effects of DES exposure, without knowing the fact of their exposure and what they can do about it.

Take a few minutes to explore the film’s website

Go to the film’s Face Book link and become Caitlin’s fan with your message that Australia wants to see WONDER DRUG!

You can check out WONDER DRUG on Twitter too!